Raising Happy Kids
Your job as a parent is to encourage and support your kids during their journeys toward self-respect and happiness.
What Is Happiness?Help your child climb the mountains of life.
You can't make your children happy. Showering them with toys, praise, and attention won't guarantee their happiness. Only children who learn how to handle life's constant struggles on their own will achieve true happiness.
Before you show your kids how to achieve their own happiness, consider these points:
- Happiness results from achieving your goals, yet you don't have to achieve all your goals to be happy.
- No goal in life worth reaching for is achieved without a struggle. Setting goals means accepting and learning to deal with anxiety, frustration, disappointment, even failure. Trying to prevent children from experiencing such difficulties inadvertently keeps them from learning how to struggle.
- Children who don't learn to struggle will never be truly happy.
There are some definite exceptions to these rules. For example, if your child is not up to a certain struggle, postpone it. What's more, don't let your children struggle when it becomes dangerous or might result in emotional devastation.
The Road to Happiness
To help your children take responsibility for their own happiness, you need to teach them how to:
- Fight their own battles. Try not to solve problems for your children that they are capable of solving for themselves. A child's "I can't!" is, more often than not, simply a knee-jerk response to frustration. For example, if your daughter complains that she can't learn to ride her bicycle without the training wheels, don't try to convince her otherwise. Leave the training wheels off her bike and say, "That's all right. There's no hurry. When you're ready to give it another try, let us know." In a few days, she'll probably be riding her bike with only an occasional tumble.
- Accept their mistakes. Mastering any task requires trial and error. Therefore, it's not your job to prevent your kids from making mistakes. Just because mistakes are negative experiences doesn't mean they destroy self-esteem. In fact, the feedback from such experiences helps your kids learn what works and what doesn't.
- Be persistent. All success stories involve perseverance -- the ability to try and try again until you succeed. As perseverance develops, so does a tolerance for frustration. If your kids cannot tolerate frustration, they'll have difficulty succeeding at most everything.
- Stand on their own feet. Taking control of your life means learning to make good choices. It's important, therefore, that children have lots of freedom to make decisions. But freedom without discipline quickly leads to trouble. You need to hold your children completely responsible for the decisions they make.
- Maximize their talents. Successful folks are resourceful. They can do a lot with a little. Thomas Edison was such a person, as was Helen Keller. Several years ago I heard a story about another such person. Janie was 7 years old when she was diagnosed with a learning disability. Her parents hired a tutor and told the school not to make any adjustments in their standards for Janie's sake. "Everyone has limitations," the parents told Janie. "This just means that you're going to have to work harder." Janie paid attention in class, worked on her assignments until she got them right, and even did extra work when she had the time. By the time Janie was in high school, she was an honor student. At 23, she was happily married, owned her own home, and was well on her way to a successful professional career.